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There was a time when I was a fairly decent resource for all that was ‘technology’…however, that was many, many moons ago. I like to think I am a bit above the curve for some things, and I am learning more every day, but I still am surrounded by people who are bona fide experts and call upon their knowledge when I know I am faced with a task that is beyond my reach.

That said, I do know what binary is and how it relates to computers. I find it fascinating when I see a software program or application that does some amazing things and realize that all a computer can really do is add 1 and 0.

With the beginning of a new year, I believe it deserves our personal consideration to be a bit more ‘binary’ as we look at our current efforts to build new business. Now, before we begin, please do not misinterpret what I am about to say as me believing all things are either black or white. This is only a test. Please ‘circle’ the appropriate response.

Q: Do you have a bona fide, you can reach in a drawer, put your hands on, marketing plan for 2011?
A: Yes or No

Q: Was your bona fide, 2010 marketing plan effective?
A: Yes or No

Q: All of your employees are aware of and support your marketing plan?
A: Yes or No

See the pattern we are developing here?

Sure, one could answer the above questions with, “Kind of” or “Sort of” but for this exercise, those responses do not compute. There is no better time than the beginning of a new year to be more decisive in what you will do to build new business for the next 12 months.

In closing, will you take a few moments to sit down, review your business development, sales and marketing strategy and see if you need to upgrade or are happy with the results of your current model? Circle one please.

A: Yes or No.

Remember, goals that are not written down are just wishes.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

www.cmconl.com

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Hey gang…we are giving the guest posting another shot as we received a lot of very good feedback from our first posting from Chris Hill, construction attorney. Next up is Kevin Kaiser who is here to share with us about the importance of a strong bonding program. Hopefully, you will read Kevin’s post and ‘bond’ with what he has to share. (Sorry, I could not help myself…Bobby)

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Being in charge of your company’s bonding program is an important task. And often the people in the company consider the surety program to be a simple tool that should be dealt with only when absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately for you, this is not the case. If you want to succeed easily, then it’s important to be proactive when it comes to your surety program. Things change all the time, so staying current really helps when it comes time to secure the bond for your next project. Plus, we can always improve things, right? A good thing today could be great tomorrow as long as you take the time to care and grow it. This is exactly what should be done in your bonding program and here are a few ways to go about it to make sure you get the surety bond you need for your company to succeed.

Can You Call Me?

Having solid communications with your bonding company can really improve the service you receive and speed up the process for both parties.

Talk to your agent. Tell them what you need, what you expect, and make sure they follow through. If the surety makes a decision about something that you don’t quite understand, ask them. Setting up meetings with your agent on a regular basis can really help make sure your bonding program is on the right track and progress is always being made.

Also, making sure that you answer when your agent contacts you will help them provide better service to you.

How Much Are You Worth?

A big indicator a surety looks at is your net worth. In other words, do you own more stuff than you owe? Sureties look at this because it shows whether your company is going to be able to turn a profit in the long haul. It also shows if you can lose a wing without the plane crashing, so to speak.

For example, when considering two companies, the surety will most likely bond the one with the most net worth, so it’s something that should be definitely be on the mind of everyone in the company.

Another thing worth building up is your working capital. It’s often seen much the same as net worth (it’s the difference between current assets and liabilities), though it covers a much shorter period, usually the previous 12 months. Find your company improving these two things and bonding companies will be much more likely to write bonds for your company.

Last Tips

We all want our company to grow. It’s perfectly logical. Unfortunately though, there are many companies that grow too fast and flop. That’s why it’s important not to grow too much in the eyes of your surety. A good tip is to not try to do anything more than twice the size of what your previous job was.

Being honest really helps. If you decide that you’re going to wait to tell the surety that the project is not going as expected, you can sure to be find difficulties down the road when trying to get a bond. Just keep open the lines of communication with your surety and let them know anything that might be related to your bond program immediately so it can be dealt with efficiently.

Follow these tips and your bonding program will no doubt improve, allowing your company to take on larger contracts and in turn, grow your business.

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Kevin Kaiser is a principal at SuretyBonds.com, the nationwide leader in surety bonds. You can connect with him on Twitter, @suretybond or Facebook.com/suretybond.

Feel free to contact Kevin directly: kevin{at}suretybonds.com.

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Today, I am taking a big ‘risk’ and letting Christopher Hill pinch hit as a guest blogger here on ‘Building New Business’. When I say taking a ‘risk’, I mean get ready for a real writer and excellent blogger!

I have gotten to know Chris in the past year and a half through his wonderful blog ‘Construction Law Musings’, via email and Twitter and his blog is the reason I did not want to enter any ‘Best Blog’ contest. I am a big fan of his and have learned a great deal from him and I am confident you will as well.

So, without further ado…Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Christopher Hill.

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As I left a mediation last week at 8:30 at night, I realized something that I knew all along. Mediation works.

Why does mediation work? For several reasons that I can think of.

The first, and likely most important is that lawyers are expensive. In most construction cases, we charge by the hour and those hours build up, especially close to a trial date. A mediated settlement can avoid this sharp uptick in attorney fees that always occurs in the last month before trial. Therefore the earlier the better.

The second is the flexibility to make a business decision. Commercial contractors and subcontractors are in a business, and they should be making business decisions. While one such decision can be to go to litigation; litigation is not always the best solution from a financial, or stress perspective. Construction professionals, with the assistance of construction attorneys, can come up with a creative way to deal with a problem and solve it.

While sometimes trial is inevitable (yes, even with a mediation), mediation allows for more options. At trial, someone wins and someone loses. A judge must pick sides and leave someone (and possibly both sides) unhappy. Then there are appeals, collections, and other expensive issues to deal with. Mediation allows compromise and allows the parties to agree to terms that the Court (or arbitration for that matter) could not give them. Add to this the opportunity costs of protracted litigation and the idea seems to be a no brainer.

The third is that a contractor can leave a mediation satisfied that they took part in the process and in controlling their own fate. Let’s face it, litigation is a foriegn world for most construction professionals. Once that call is made to their lawyer, the process can seem to be out of their hands, and in many ways it is. A good mediator can change that. While the compromise may not result in complete satisfaction, trial can, and often does result in dissatisfaction. At least with mediation, one can feel as if he was in some control and not on a headlong charge to oblivion without a way to put on the breaks.

Don’t get me wrong, mediation must be approached with a spirit of compromise and sometimes starting litigation is the only way to get there. If the parties aren’t committed to the process, no settlement can occur. Mediation does not work all the time, particularly if the parties present hurdles to the process.

In short, while litigation has its place and I am a construction attorney with the experience to pursue a case from start to finish, I would much rather help the contractors and subcontractors I represent continue to make money and avoid the stress, expense and monetary cost of litigation through contract review and mediation where possible. This is for one simple reason, mediation works.

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Christopher Hill is a LEED AP and construction attorney in Richmond, VA. Chris is a member of Virginia’s Legal Elite in Construction Law and authors the Construction Law Musings blog. Please feel free to contact Chris through his blog or on Twitter at @constructionlaw.

Please check out Chris’s Construction Law Musings Blog for more on Virginia construction law and other topics.

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Being a product of the south, I have heard and used more than my share of colloquialisms. I especially enjoy being able to sneak one in during a major presentation or group of ‘heavy hitters’ to see what, if any, reaction I get.

This past week, I was in the corporate office of a Fortune 200 company and was able to use one of my favorites, ‘Shuckin’ it down to the cob!’. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, ‘shuckin’ it down to the cob’ refers to shucking an ear of corn with so much enthusiasm that you are left with nothing but the cob. Translation: it means no frills, no extras, as bare bones of a proposition as one can find.

In this particular setting, we were negotiating a rather large contract for over 200 locations and the setting felt much like the stereotypical ‘buying a new car’ scenario with the price haggling bouncing back and forth like a Forrest Gump ping pong match.

It was close to ‘walking out’ time when I was able to remind the prospect that, regarding our price, we have ‘Shucked it down to the cob’. I was able to gain a double sense of satisfaction by (A) getting the business and (B) being able to use one of my favorite colloquialisms in such a setting.

This post is not so much about winning negotiations with corny, no pun intended, sayings but rather taking a look at one’s business, tossing out the fluff and focusing on that which is most important.

Here are a few ‘Shuckisms’ since my last post.

I had a meeting with a new client this week, and as we were reviewing the business development strategy we were putting together, the owner of the company expressed his excitement about all the new techniques we had gone over.

Shuckism: I had to remind him that results are the only thing that counts.

I was watching one of my new favorite shows, ‘Shark Tank’ and there was a candidate there seeking money for her store that catered to teaching children how to shop. If you are unfamiliar with the show, it is kind of like an ‘American Idol’ for entrepreneurs, seeking funding as opposed to a recording contract. After making a pitch for their business and stating an amount they are seeking oin exchange for ‘X’ percentage equity in their business, the ‘Sharks (Successful Venture Capitalists) either opt out or strike a deal.

It was obvious the lady had passion for her business but there really was not much of a model for success. All of the sharks opted out and while most were trying to be kind, one shark was brutally honest. He said, ‘Shut it down, I am the only one here who is your friend.”

Shuckism: There is a big difference between being in business and ‘playing business’.

A few years ago, we redid our kitchen. You know, the whole nine yards: granite counter tops, new appliances, cabinets, lights, hardwoods, etc. My wife did the budgeting as this was her project. I did give her a template to follow and she did indeed do a great job of researching all the costs.

When we reviewed the budget, I noticed she left blank the line marked ‘Contingency’. When I inquired, she assured me she thought of every cost and provided me her research to back up her claim. She was correct, her numbers for the labor costs and appliances and fixtures were spot on. I honestly could not think of any contingency so we left that blank.

Low and behold, when one is having a kitchen redone, the opportunity to cook in said kitchen is greatly reduced and the cost of eating out for three weeks could fall into your ‘contingency’ cost line.

Shuckism: If you are not sure, ask someone who has done it before. Measure twice/cut once applies to more than lumber.

There are so many great resources on the web…tons of great blogs, websites, discussion groups, e-newsletters, etc. If you are having challenges building new business…just ask.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Michael Stone author of the construction blog ‘Markup and Profit’ (www.markupandprofit.com). He is very much like me in that he truly enjoys helping people build new business. The same with Mark Buckshon, author of the new book, ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ (www.constructionmarketingideas.com). I would not be blogging if it were not for Mark. I know for a fact, both welcome inquiries and offer a lot of great information on their sites.

There are a lot of great resources out there that can help you build new business, you just have to take advantage of them. It may be the simplest small pearl of wisdom someone else shares with you that helps you land the next contract. Very much like trying to solve magic tricks, people often way over think the solution.

Shuckism: The answer is always ‘no’ until you ask.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

www.cmconl.com

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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WARNING: This blog does not have any pictures and may be considered lengthy by some.

I remember doing some channel surfing many moons ago and coming across George Carlin doing a bit about how all we really need in life is a ‘place for our stuff’. He went on to say that all life is about is finding a place for your stuff. Your house is really nothing but a place for your stuff with a roof. When you go on vacation, you take a smaller version of your stuff but you will still have a place for your stuff.

In the same spirit and thinking of Mr. Carlin’s wonderful piece on having a place for one’s stuff, I will contend that the parallel for business is not so much having a place for our stuff but, from Wal-mart all the way down to the sole proprietor, business is all about finding ‘shorter lines’.

Sure, we all have ‘stuff’ for our business. Where would I be without my laptop, my Blackberry, iPod player, copy machine, coffee maker, scanner and printers? These are merely tools to help me obtain what I truly desire – shorter lines.

Everything in business is a part of some type of line and we all want shorter ones. Think about it: You pull into the bank to make a deposit and there are four open drive-thru lanes. Which one do you pick? The one that has the shorter line. This also applies to checking out at the grocery store, going through security at the airport and any visit to your friendly Department of Motor Vehicles. We all want shorter lines.

In business, every single task we engage ourselves with involves a line of some kind with, I believe, the broader category being ‘time lines’. For each of the following, whatever process we choose, we cannot escape getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ via a line of time.

• Complete stranger to loyal client

• Zero revenue to our first $1,000,000

• Profit margin from breakeven to 15%

• One location to ten branch offices

• Three employees to 50 employees

I think you get the picture. Every business person worth their salt is quite aware of the different lines involved in achieving one’s goals but what separates those possessing shorter lines from the ones with longer lines, is the amount of preparation put into each goal.

How does one reduce the timeline from meeting a complete stranger to having that person as a loyal client from 10 months down to three?

How does one shorten that timeline to seven figures in revenue from three years to one?

The simple answer is planning.

This past week, I am happy to report that we moved four companies from our ‘Prospects’ folder to our ‘Client’ folder…each being an entity in the A/E/C marketplace. If I had to highlight one item as the most profound and common issue of every single company we have worked with it would undoubtedly be how amazed I am to find the number of companies who make their living designing or following a set of plans and specifications…yet do not plan for their business.

What would the timeline be to build a 10,000 SF retail store without plans and specs versus the timeline with plans and specs?

What would the timeline be to build a million dollar business without a plan versus having one?

The late great coach Paul “Bear” Bryant once said, “Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That’s why it’s is easy to beat most folks.”

The shortest distance between two points will always be a straight line. The best way to make that line shorter is to plan for a shorter line.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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I went to college in the 80’s when a couple of things happened in my life that are still with me today. The first, I became greatly fascinated and interested in the study of Philosophy and secondly, music changed.

I still study philosophy and from time to time still listen to some of the music from that era. (Don’t forget, though they 80’s did give us the music and haircuts of ‘A Flock of Seagulls’ we also got Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ and R.E.M.)

I went to school in Athens, at the University of Georgia, where, at that time, the local music scene was getting quite the attention thanks to The B-52’s, R.E.M., Pylon, Widespread Panic, The Normaltown Flyers and a few other bands.

I also worked in a record store (Remember those?) and played in a rock and roll band but so did, it seemed, every other person in Athens at that time. Music was, and still is, a very big part of my life.

I remember one day, at work, I was able to engage in two of my favorite subjects in one conversation, music and philosophy. On that day a co-worker who was really into Madonna, so much so to the point that she dressed like her just about ever day, commented to me that Madonna was the best singer in the world.

Not being the fan of Madonna as my co-worker, I challenged her to define what she means by ‘best singer’ in the world. This led to a music/philosophical discussion which included such topics as the ‘Definition of terms’ and argumentum ad populum (appeal to the populace).

Since my co-worker could not define what makes someone the ‘best singer in the world’ all she could do was point to a poll where Madonna was voted ‘Best Female Singer’.

I say all that to say this: Today, this blog was voted ‘Best Construction Blog’ in a contest hosted my Mark Buckshon’s ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ and the final results are that ‘Building New Business’ was voted at the top and I am truly flattered.

Amongst my ‘competitors’ are some really, really great blogs. During these past few weeks, I learned of some really good ones that were new to me and am happy that they ones I already were aware of, and have had links on my blog space for some time, did quite well. (See the ‘Links’ tab at the top of this blog.)

I was not that familiar with Michael Stone’s ‘www.markupandprofit.com’ until the contest. Michael has been blogging before I knew what one was! He has a great blog and it is full of wonderful information. Michael’s blog comes from the perspective of someone who not only has the formal construction education, but has the real world experience as well. I will definitely be adding his blog to my ‘list of links’.

I have known Mark Buckshon for five years and how we met makes for a great ‘networking’ story in and of itself. I read Mark’s ‘Construction Marketing Ideas’ nearly every day and it is the top entry of my ‘Newsreader’. I did not know about this contest until I saw that I was leading it. I believe Mark summed it up quite well, in today’s announcement…I sell my ‘networking skills’ for a living…that is what I do and that is what I teach my clients.

Anyway, I am flattered each time I receive an email, comment or phone call from a reader. I am flattered to have been nominated and to have been able to participate in Mark’s contest and I am especially flattered to have been at the top of the voting. That said, do I believe this blog is the best construction blog? Well, let me say that I don’t believe Madonna was ever the best singer in the world.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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I know a guy that is never wrong. Ever! I kid you not, if he hits a curb pulling into the grocery store, it is the @#$% engineer’s fault for not knowing how to design a parking lot.

Now, before any clients or prospects get the wrong idea (sorry, I could not resist) allow me to explain what I mean when I say I love it when I am wrong…I am not talking about ‘not in accordance with what is morally right’ but rather ‘in error’.

The reason I enjoy being wrong is that, through the years, as I have often been wrong, I learn and grow from each experience where what I thought to be true, turned out not to be so.

Therefore, in order to share my “growth” experiences, here is a list of things where I was quite wrong.

Sushi – I use to think that the only reason anyone would eat sushi is so they could say, “I eat sushi.” That there was no possible way it could, in fact, be something somebody would want to eat.

I was wrong.

Napoleon Dynamite – The friend who told me about this movie, in my mind and at the time, way over-sold it. There was no way it could be as brilliant and funny as he described and, to be honest, the first time I watched it I was only ‘half wrong’. However, after the second, third, fourth and fifth times…I revel in its humor and brilliance. (Vote for Pedro!)

I was wrong.

Bob Chinn’s Crab House – I have many favorite eating establishments in Chicago but one in particular was a Polish restaurant on Milwaukee Avenue called ‘Irene’s’. Years ago, before children, I happened to be in Chicago on business at the same time Lane, my wife, was and we both wanted to go to our favorite place. At that time, her’s was a place called Bob Chinn’s Crab House. I was convinced here was no way I would enjoy my meal there as much as I would Irene’s. Naturally, I lost that argument and am glad I did.

I was wrong.

Nirvana and Green Day – I will lump both of these together because, no pun intended, they are the same song, different verses. The popularity of each band preceded anything I had heard from either regarding their music. I convinced myself that there was no way there could be an ounce of real talent amongst them before hearing one single song.

I was wrong.

Time Management Course – I enjoy telling people that I have found a way to make a fairly decent living out of my ‘healthy amount of OCD’. Back in the day, before Palm Pilots were the rage, we were all encouraged to sign up for a time management course with a local company and the ‘trophy’ from attending was being able to walk around with this HUGE leather, three ring binder.

If you can remember Dr. Suess’ classic, ‘The Star Belly Sneetches’ it was very much a local case of ‘those with stars and those without.’ I prided myself on being organized ‘without’.

Push came to shove and I did end up taking the course, getting my large binder and loving the processes I learned then and still use today.

I was wrong.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – I had a passing fancy in high school and college with Tae Kwon Do and Aikido. Then, about ten years ago, I started reading about this family from Brazil, the Gracies, who had developed their own form of jiu jitsu and my first thought was, there is no way this new martial art can be all that. In order to keep this blog offering from going on and on and on…I will just say that my passion for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has yet to find its match as far as items on my list of activities that are not work related.

I was wrong.

I could offer many more concrete examples of where I thought I knew the truth only to be shown otherwise. I am happy to report that the amount of time between such incidents has grown because I have learned to be more open-minded to new thoughts and ideas. I know this past year, I have learned a great deal that has helped build my business in ways I would not have thought possible…thanks in part to those gentle reminders of when I was wrong before.

I believe 2010 will be a better year business-wise than 2009…but I could be wrong.

If your sales are down or you have hit a sustained revenue plateau or even losing market share, what are you doing differently? What do you plan to do differently? Have you pulled out your business plan and reviewed it? Do you have a business plan or are you one of those who plan on one day having a business plan?

In today’s economy, as we try to build new business, is there any better time than today to look at new ways of doing things, listening to new ideas, trying new techniques, moving towards the 2.0 version of your company and/or yourself?

I don’t believe there is a better time than now to possibly prove ourselves wrong. I also don’t believe I am wrong about this one.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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I recently met with the head of an architectural firm who is trying to ‘re-invent’ himself due to the need of the particular specialty of design in which he has built his practice has pretty much disappeared. As we discussed various options, I could not help but to be reminded of one of the very first architectural clients I ever had.

This contract was to help develop a business and marketing plan for a very accomplished architect who was one of three partners of a well-known regional firm. For some reason, he decided to go out on his own with a new firm and start from scratch. I have a saying I have often repeated and will again now, ‘In all my years of being in the A/E/C industry, I have yet to meet an architect, engineer, contractor or sub, who started their own business because they wanted to be in sales.” This client may have been the epitome of that.

After we completed all the research and legwork for the business plan and after getting to know him, his goals and vision for his new venture, we began working on his marketing plan. I soon realized he needed some coaching on sales and marketing as that was going to be one of his main functions.

Following along the old line of, “The best way to appear sincere is to be sincere.”…I am a big believer that no one should be able to sell a company better than the owner. No, I am not saying owning a company suddenly turns one into Jeffrey Gitomer or Zig Ziglar but there is a lot to be said for being the one who has their ‘name on the door’ and their reputation at stake when marketing the goods and/or services of a company they own.

As we finished the marketing plan the last part of my contract was to help him with his presentation of why an interested party should hire his company. Since he was out of state, we decided we would meet at a restaurant on his next trip through Atlanta and role play the following scenario. I would be a businessman looking to develop my own office building and he would be the third architectural firm I was considering. Pretty simple.

After we met, ordered dinner, chatted and caught up, it was ‘show time’! I reached into my briefcase, pulled out his marketing package and went into character. “Joe, I appreciate you meeting with me and have to admit, I am very impressed with your brochure and portfolio. As you know, I am looking to develop a 20,000 square foot building and am trying to select an architectural firm that will be able to help me with this goal. Tell me why I should consider your firm.”

(Long pause…)

After what seemed like minutes, he finally looked at me and said, “I can’t do it.”

Not only could he not make a presentation on the how’s and why’s someone should consider his firm, he could not even make a ‘pretend’ presentation.
Granted, not everyone is cut out for sales, which, as a business development sales and marketing consultant is good news for me. However, I believe everyone in every company is in sales in some shape or form. So, after my client confessed his ‘stage fright’ we discussed techniques that would work for him and he left happy and not as concerned about his next presentation.

The reason I share this with you today is lately I have been inundated with calls and emails from people who, because of the economy, find themselves looking for new opportunities. I can sincerely tell you that I have a real heart for people in this situation as I have been there before. We all thought we would retire and die with CMD (Construction Market Data), my former employer, and when I got the message that I had a meeting with Human Resources in five minutes and just a few hours later, I was walking to the parking lot with a cardboard box of personal items and 13 years of memories, I too had to ‘re-invent’ myself.

My father is full of sayings and one that sticks out to me is ‘Can’t never could.’ The meaning of that is the shortest lesson in believing in yourself. There are many examples of people who came to greatness through a path they never dreamed. In today’s tough economy, these people are not necessarily looking for greatness, just a way to earn a living.

I will close with yet another saying I picked up along the way which I have found value in more than once. “Man can live for about 30 days without food, for about seven days without water, for about eight minutes without oxygen but not for one second without hope.”

I know it is easy to toss out a ‘hang in there’ to someone who seriously needs that one connection, that one lead, that one contact that will lead them to their next opportunity but if you are one of those people or know someone who is, whatever you do, don’t say, ‘I can’t do it.’ At least not where I can hear you. I know things are genuinely tough out there for many, many people but as long as one has hope, there will be less ‘I can’t do it’ mindsets.

Pardon me if I sounded a bit maudlin with this post but I truly love what I do, I truly enjoy seeing people build new business and truly enjoy helping others as best I can. If you are, or a friend, relative or neighbor is close to saying, ‘I can’t do it’…don’t stop…shoot me an email and I will send you my ‘New Opportunity Starter Kit’ which is really nothing more than a list of ideas, links and a short outline of ideas I have developed through the years. Because we do recruiting for the A/E/C industry, we get all kinds of calls from our friends or neighbors when someone is looking and though they are usually not a good candidate for our clients, the blueprint for finding something new is quite transferrable.

Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged people who kept on working and had more hope than they had ‘I can’t do it.’

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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This really is not so much a continuation of my last posting as it is a follow up discussion answering a few of the questions I received.

For those who read my last offering, you are aware that it was part of a unique ‘blog blast’ that I was privileged to have been a part of…six A/E/C marketplace bloggers all writing on the same topic, the perfect CRM.

My own take was to approach it from the perspective of using a CRM to manage leads, prospects and customers for building new business. I gave a little background on my history of working in the construction information business for 13 years and seeing how companies use and ‘misused’ the leads they purchased.

Allow me to steer off topic for just a bit and address the subject of paying for leads and say that Reed Construction Data, McGraw-Hill’s F.W. Dodge Reports, Construction Wire, CDC News, etc. are all good at what they do. I have used or consulted with companies using all of these and more and the main point I would like to make is that as helpful and useful as these leads are, the chances of their ‘uniqueness’ are slim to none. What I mean by that is, chances are, dozens and in some cases hundreds of your competitors are using the very same leads.

The difference is how one utilizes the information in those leads. Very much the same way I could play Phil Keaggy’s guitar or hit a few balls with Tiger’s driver, but the results would be much different. It is the old ‘where do you put the fulcrum for your lever?’ idea.

Now, on to the questions:

Q: How do I get ‘buy-in’ from my employees who I know are going to resist a new CRM system?

A: Well, there is always the “I am the general, you are the private, I out-rank you so do it!” approach, which I do not recommend as the initial presentation. This is simply nothing more than following the old business adage, “If you get them to help plan the fight, the less likely they are to fight the plan.”

This will require a much better understanding of what a CRM can do that your future users. This is where you, the boss, play the role of the consultant with your sales reps as your client. Most CRM’s are customizable and have more features than the average user will come close to using. Start by asking what their challenges are in tracking prospects, making sure you follow the shortest path from ‘stranger’ to loyal customer. Get their input from the beginning, hold round-table discussions, let them participate in the sales presentation from the vendor.

Q: We have employees all over the country, what challenges should I be aware of before implementing a CRM?

A: Easy…standards! This is what I call “Making the ‘Big-Mac’ taste the same.” What I mean by that is, if you buy a Big-Mac in Albuquerque, it will taste just like a Big-Mac you would buy in Atlanta. Make sure you develop standards for entry and use that are easy to understand and help you reach the goals you have set for implementing or upgrading your CRM.

Q: What do I need from a CRM?

A: This is a very open question but important because, depending upon one’s knowledge of and understanding of a CRM, it can be very easy to over or under buy. I worked with one company that spent several hundred, thousand dollars on a system that would take a lead or prospect information and weave it through their accounting, human resources and operations.

The system is very, very robust and if used properly can save a company tons of money. However, in this case, it was the equivalent of trying to kill a fly with a stick of dynamite. A good sales rep can make any CRM look like the best thing since penicillin so spend some time and effort understanding what you need and how you will use it before you begin your purchasing process.

Q: What is the biggest mistake a company makes in investing in a CRM?

A: Believing that purchasing a CRM is a ‘silver bullet’. I have said it before that the purchase alone of a CRM is much like the purchase of a ‘Bow-flex’…the purchase alone will do nothing for you. What will make a difference is the effective and continued use of one will.

In closing, I will admit that all of this plays well into my ‘healthy level of OCD’. And, yes, I admit that when it comes to discussing CRM’s, data standards, feature comparisons, execution plans, etc. the real inner geek in me comes alive but that is because of all my years in business, I have seen fewer programs that can help a company build new business and grow than a well-executed CRM system.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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When I first started writing ‘Building New Business’ my goal was to make it a weekly offering but it did not take too long before I realized that was a bit ambitious. The amended goal was every other Thursday and then…as often as I could.

The reason so much time has passed since my last post is things are slammed on this end…which is good. Also, when I started this, I was in the middle of a six month streak of not having to set foot in the airport. That streak is now over and I am writing this waiting to board yet another plane.

In the time since my last offering, I have been up to my neck in alligators but still have enjoyed the calls and emails I have received with people asking a question, wanting to bounce round an idea or just to ‘talk shop’. I always enjoy and welcome such inquiries.

The reason I am entitling this ‘Thank You’ is because I sincerely want to express my gratitude to those who find time to read my blog. I do this out of my unbridled, unapologetic and unashamed passion for capitalism and the free-enterprise system. Being able to share that same excitement with those who have reached out to me and to be able to toss around a few ideas or answer a few questions is fuel to my fire.

Capitalism seems to be getting a lot of negative press here lately with corporate bail outs, government ownership of private companies, threats of bankruptcy, etc. Let me assure you that of the inquiries I have received in the last several weeks, none came from hedge fund managers, bankruptcy lawyers or any government official. They all came from either small business owners or someone responsible for bringing in new business. These are the people that inspire me and help make me wake up each day excited to be doing what I do, helping to churn the wheels of commerce. It is even more rewarding when I hear that our little chat appears to have helped in even the smallest way.

This one will be short gang but I promise a new post soon. I just completed a huge project and will be able to exhale a bit, pour another cup of coffee and hopefully offer a nugget or two of something you may find useful as we all go about building new business.

Have a great weekend…

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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